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G.O.P. Lawmaker Repeats Call for Inquiry Into Hillary Clinton

For much of the time that Hillary Clinton has run for president, her chief adversary on Capitol Hill has been Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the special committee that investigated the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

The committee completed its investigation with a scathing attack on Mrs. Clinton in June, but found no new evidence of wrongdoing. And now she has a new tormentor: Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah.

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, announced on July 5 that the bureau would recommend that Mrs. Clinton not be charged in connection with her use of a private email account when she was secretary of state, but gave a detailed account of what he called her "extremely careless" handling of classified information. House Republicans rejected Mr. Comey's conclusion, and Mr. Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has taken the lead in trying to do something about it.

Just five days after Mr. Comey's announcement, Mr. Chaffetz asked the Justice Department to open an inquiry into whether Mrs. Clinton had lied in October when she testified before the Benghazi committee. The Republicans' request has been met with silence from the department and the F.B.I., and prosecutors have shown no indication they are willing to open another investigation. Legal experts have said that making a perjury case against Mrs. Clinton would be difficult.

On Tuesday, Mr. Chaffetz asked the Justice Department for the second time in two months to investigate Mrs. Clinton. Citing newly released F.B.I. documents, he requested the department look into whether emails had been illegally deleted from her email server.

Mr. Chaffetz has scheduled two hearings for the next week related to Mrs. Clinton, and he said in an interview on Tuesday that his inquiries may extend past November.

"We are going as fast as we can regardless of the election," he said. "I would be derelict in my duties to drop it now or after the election and let it go. She picked the timeline, not me."

Mrs. Clinton dismissed Mr. Chaffetz's efforts when asked about them at a news conference on her campaign plane in Tampa, Fla., though she sounded almost resigned.

"I believe I have created so many jobs in the sort of conspiracy theory machine factory because honestly, they never quit," she said. "They keep coming back, and here's another one."

The House Oversight Committee has traditionally been a convenient perch to criticize a president and his administration.

During the late 1990s, Representative Dan Burton of Indiana was a particular thorn in President Bill Clinton's side, investigating what he perceived to be scandals surrounding episodes like the suicide of Vincent W. Foster Jr., a deputy White House counsel. And Representative Darrell Issa of California, Mr. Chaffetz's predecessor, held some of the first hearings on Benghazi.

"Oversight is incredibly important because it tells you whether the government's laws are working, but with the Republicans, we've had a pattern with their chairman of using it strictly for partisan purposes," said Henry Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight Committee from 2007 to 2009. "It's a form of government funding Republican campaigns."

Mr. Waxman, who left Congress in 2015 and is now the chairman of Waxman Strategies, a Washington lobbying firm, said the only Republican chairman in recent years to actually conduct oversight was Representative Tom Davis of Virginia, who retired in 2008.

"I think what happens with Republicans is that they are either following what their leadership tells them to do or they decide to become famous heroes to their partisan base instead of being legislative leaders," Mr. Waxman said.

Mr. Chaffetz, a kicker on the Brigham Young University football team from 1985 to 1989, was elected to Congress in 2008. He was one of the first lawmakers to raise questions about the administration's role in Benghazi. Less than a month after the attacks, Mr. Chaffetz traveled to Libya to look into the security there and said that requests for additional security had been denied by the State Department.

In 2015, he became chairman of the oversight committee. Until his recent focus on Mrs. Clinton, he had devoted much of his time criticizing the Secret Service for its security lapses.

Mr. Chaffetz said he is comfortable with his role.

"It's the nature of being the committee chairman to conduct oversight of the administration," he said. "The committee was founded in 1814, and it's the check and balance. And those in the administration never find that pleasant or convenient."

Last week, in response to a request from Mr. Chaffetz and other Republicans, the F.B.I. released 58 pages of documents related to its inquiry into Mrs. Clinton's email practices and whether classified information was mishandled. The documents, which included a summary of an interview agents had with her and a memorandum about the case, showed that emails had been deleted from Mrs. Clinton's server last year.

According to the documents, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton told Platte River Networks in December 2014 to delete an archive of emails from her account. But Platte River apparently never followed those instructions. About three weeks after the existence of the account was revealed in March 2015, a Platte River employee deleted emails using a program called BleachBit. By then, Mr. Chaffetz's committee and the special committee investigating the Benghazi attacks had called for the emails to be preserved, according to Mr. Chaffetz.

"This timeline of events raises questions as to whether the P.R.N. engineer violated federal statutes that prohibit destruction of evidence and obstruction of a congressional investigation, among others, when the engineer erased Secretary Clinton's email contrary to congressional preservation orders and a subpoena," he said in the letter to Platte River.

Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland and the ranking member on the oversight and Benghazi committees, said Republicans were trying to resurrect controversies that have already been proved baseless.

"As the election draws nearer, every day comes with a frantic, rehashed Republican attack on Secretary Clinton," he said. "Republicans came up empty in their discredited Benghazi investigation and then they were outraged with the F.B.I.'s independent and unanimous decision, despite praising Director Comey's integrity and honesty days earlier."

"Now they are doing whatever it takes to keep investigating Secretary Clinton in a desperate attempt to stop her from becoming president," he continued. "This is an abuse of taxpayer dollars for partisan political purposes, and it undermines the integrity of the committee."

[Source: By Michael S. Schmidt, International New York Times, Washington, 06Sep16]

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